Letter #38 from UPIII



Recieved 27th September 2018

JVA Köln, 12th September 2018

TRIGGER WARNING: implied self harm/ suicide.

I've written about this before but I want to talk about it again and describe it a little more. I wanted to draw a comic strip, but I can't find the "right" way to do it now. I'll try again another time, but for today here's the story of the soft, warm yellow cat (who is more often than not these days a lion).

They have no name. Or, not a name that can be said in letters. When I think of them it's a sensation, comfort/ safety/ protection, not a name.

They have no gender. They are as much a part of me as a demon is to a person in the book "The Golden Compass/ Northern Lights", the first part of the His Dark Materials Triology. When I have no one else, I have them.

You could call them the part of me that fights for survival, to hold it together when I'm in so many pieces I don't know where to - or if I should - start putting myself back together.

They are the part of me that takes all the pain and makes me feel that it is going to be okay. They are the part of me that sees pain in other people and makes it my pain. I don't mind this. I even encourage it. I will absolutely and without hesitation sacrifice my own happiness for other people.

The existence of this "soft, warm yellow light" means it doesn't impact me long term. I can give and give and give without being exhausted by it.

Prison has already tested this because I have no way to escape and have "me time" but, as best I can, I still try.

Translate shopping lists for people who can't read/ write. Write Antrags, letters to lawyers. What I can do I really try to do.

Lately though, as you've read, I'm self isolating. It is the closest to "me time" I can get, and the pain here is so intense it's like standing on the sun hoping putting on sunscreen will stop you getting sunburnt.

My body is tired. My heart is tired. My mind is tired. My soul is tired.

And so the cat is not as bright. They're becoming like a lighter running out of fluid. I keep thumbing the trigger but all I'm getting are sparks. I guess you could call them the "physical" form of my heart. It's getting cold. The demons are coming back. There's no fire to keep away the darkness. I'm fighting to tip the last of the lighter fluid into the chamber.

Come on, come on, please. I need you. Please don't leave me.

Maybe they're more like calcifer from Howl's Moving Castle. My literal heart. The fire, the attitude, the fight, and the prison has put them under a dripping tap. Drip, hiss. Drip, hiss. I need more lighter fluid, matches, something. Come on...

The insomnia has started. The nightmares are back. I have no appetite. The demons are closing in ... just let them take you ... it's just a matter of time ... it's the easy way or the hard way ... you wanted it too ... useless .... pathetic ... stupid ... you deserve this ... who would ever give a shit about you?

No! I've spent too fucking long feeling like shit about things that weren't my fault! Fucking tried to make good choices! I did the best I could! ... did you really? ...Yes! I fucking did! I'm not perfect an I've never tried to pretend otherwise! I'm fucking trying and that should mean something!

WHOOSH. There we go. There's the lighter fluid. I'm back. 

The worst for me here are nights. I barely sleep. My nightmares are awful.

If I was outside, I'd feel shitty and needy but I'd see if someone wanted to hang out (who also couldn't sleep). If no one wanted to/ could I'd drive myself somewhere: the beach, the city, a remote spot on a hill to look at the city lights. Over the years I learnt to be alone with myself and my thoughts. I rarely get lonely. I'm okay with being alone. I literally felt that I had no other option than to be okay with it. So it became okay, it became normal for me. I have friends and families but at a party with all of the I'd be sitting on a bench alone in the kitchen with half a bottle of Tequila.

I never learnt how to rely on people. I don't know how to, I've always just felt like all I really have when things turn to shit is me. Who was there for me through every single damaging thing? Me. Who listens to me, really listens, when I need to talk and doesn't tell me my fears are stupid? Me. Who doesn't shut me down and tell me  other people have it worse or say 'but you have a good life' or make excuses for the people who abused me? Me. So I will avoid talking about my problems unless I am absolutely beyond desperate for someone to listen and say "it's going to be okay". Nine times out of ten I regret it. Beat myself up for opening my mouth and talking about myself. I don't want a solution to my problems. I just want someone to hear them. That's it.

Not along I recieved the first letter from my father, which I will write about properly in another letter, but one thing he wrote was "country you are in is also having an extra burden to feed you and to keep you warm."

The letter is four pages - typed - long. It never gets easier to read. I was running out of lighter fluid already. The light dimmed again. It was five days until my next visit. The only time in the week I can talk to people (or choose to). That was a long five days.

I was very desperate to be told "it's okay". 

What was left of the cat - limp, lethargic, barely alive - I put on the visit table. Please just give me a little spark ...

I truly wish I'd never mentioned it. That's not my visitors' fault - how could they know I just wanted to be heard? - and I don't mind. They've got a lot on their minds. They have their own issues. Maybe they wanted to hear 'it's okay' too but I didn't say it. Maybe I should have listened. Half an hour is not a lot of time and I wasted it talking about my shit. I'm so mad at myself. These wonderful, kind, generous people come to visit me and I have the audacity to complain about petty little shit when they're being subjected to constant police pressure and other bullshit? I need to get a grip.

So I hugged them, thanked them, said something like please look after yourselves and then scooped up the grey lump of coal that was the yellow cat.

Last visit - before that one - I was forgotten by the guards and sat in the waiting room for three hours after the visit. I didn't mind. Shit happens. It's not a big deal!

This time though I was thankful it was only half an hour. I wanted to be back in the cell. I desperately wanted to be alone. If nothing else than just try and get some spark into the cat. I really need warmth right now, more than ever, please ...

I pulled the curtain across and closed the window to block out as much light as possible. Cuddled myself under the thin, scratchy dark blue blankets. For the first time in a long time I let got. Let in all the shit feelings. All the you deserve this, you're pathetic, ever memory of every time that I'd ever felt like I fucked up or time I went through something damaging. My body went numb. My mind went numb.

Have you ever had so much pain in your head or hated yourself so much you'd do anything to feel something else? That you'd make that pain physical because it's easier? That you just didn't care any more?

It crossed my mind. I debated it. It used to be a habit. Sometimes bad habits come back.

I don't know why but I didn't do it. I just kept lying there under the blankets. In the dark. No cat. Nothing. Me, my thoughts and no escape.

I thought about the remains - a grey cold lump - of the yellow cat. I imagined cuddling it. Blowing warm breath into my hands like it was a cold day. Maybe I don't need a lighter or a match. Maybe this could be enough.
I didn't even realize I was physically cold until I felt my hands warm up and stop shaking. Please, please, please.

Whoosh. There we go. Still grey and small and weak but alive. That's okay. It's enough. They are enough.

I am enough.

My heart and should belong to a grey cat - a real one - who I had to say goodbye to last year. His body gave up on him. It was the worst day of my life. That day has no competition, not even close. I held his fragile broken body to my chest and told him I loved (him) more than anything or anyone else in the world. And then his eyes grew wide. His purring stopped. His body went limp.

It felt like both our hearts stopped.

There's nothing wrong with grey. Maybe it's better. Maybe it means my heart is coming back.

I don't think badly of people who miss animals more than people. The grey cat, Sebastian, named after the crab from the Little Mermaid, always found me when I was anything less than okay. Lay on my chest or let me cuddle him. Never stopped purring. If I whistled he always came running to me for a hug. He'd follow me around. he was always there when I got back from work, and I'd pick him up and he'd nuzzle my cheek or my neck. He's the only living thing I'd go to if I needed comfort.

Some animals can understand better than people can.

Sometimes people can't understand at all.

Because they're very good at talking but not listening.

When I realised this - after a very shit day - I decided to start listening. Really listening. No phone. No other distraction. My absolute attention to not just hear what someone was saying but how they were saying it.

Do they worry I won't care if they say they're not okay? I will.

Do they worry they can't tell me something because they think I'll judge them? I won't. It's not my place or any of my business to tell you how to live your life. But is is my place to be there for you if you want/ need me to be. Always.

And right now the person I need to be here for is myself. Nothing could have prepared me for how physically alone prison is. I'm not even talking about sex. I just want to sit next to someone. If I'm lucky maybe put my head on their shoulder. That's it. Nothing more. Just that.

When I get released in December I will not have been physically close with anyone for nine months. Not cuddled, or even slept in the same room as anyone else. I wonder if the sound of people - breathing, snoring, moving - will shock me so much I won't be able to sleep. If I sleep next to someone (by some absolute miracle), will being touched frighten me? Or will I find it comforting?

I wonder if I'll find out. Maybe I wont.

There is another reason for the existence of the cat. It helps make me feel less poisonous. I'm not going to talk about what I've been through - there's people who read these that I'd rather not know because I worry it will change the idea of who I am in their minds - but I'll just say that for me, who thinks prison is not the worst place  in the world or worst thing they've been through, it was hard. I didn't think I'd survive the pain of some of the things. I almost didn't. I was in and out of hospital more than once. But I survived.  

Maybe to write these. To try and help create a better world. Ask people - you - to understand. To listen to your friends when they're hurting. I don't know.

I just hope these letters are doing something cause they sure as hell aren't easy to write.

Anyway, I don't think poison is the right word. It's like this dark infection. I'm worried to touch people or get close to them. What if it spreads?

Maybe that's the pain I carry talking. I don't want to talk about it. I don't think anyone could handle it - would want to handle it. Maybe they'll be disgusted by it.

Maybe they will look at me like I'm a nasty piece of scum on the bottom of their shoe. I would. I would never - could never - look or feel or think of someone that way. But I absolutely do look and think and feel about myself that way.

When I had an eating disorder - maybe better to say when I suffered the worst from it - it didn't matter how much weight I lost, I always felt the biggest person in the room. Even if I (objectively) wasn't. I never thought of anyone else as "fat" or "big" or anything. Only me. Everyone else looked perfect to me, I thought their weight suited them. They look so good! I thought. Why can't or don't I look like that? Why am I so unhappy with how I look? And every "you've lost weight!" or "you look so good now!" fuelled me. Oh yes, maybe I won't feel like scum forever. Maybe I'll finally feel like my weight suits me.

Didn't happen. Still felt like an infection of dark scum. Still do.

But the idea of the cat helped. It was/ is pure. Pure warmth, love and light. No amount of darkness can live in those conditions or with that amount of light.

So shitty feelings can go fuck themselves, instead of fucking with me. I've had enough.

The issue now is, there's not enough warmth in me to really fuel the cat. No cat, no light. No light and the dark will creep in. A lot. I don't have the mental energy right now to chase it away. I don't even know if I want to. I like the familiarity of negative feelings/ emotions. Like old friends. They're not necessarily good for me but the little bit of familiarness is nice. So I let them stay.

Which was a bad decision. Now it will be so much harder for me to get rid of them and I already notice how they're changing me.

I go to visits and don't want to touch anyone or be touched because I feel like an infection. But then if I don't have any physical contact - a shoulder rub, brush of a hand, whatever  - it feels like my brain says see? Told you so. Even they know you're scum.

But then I think, a well built house doesn't fall down if you remove a door or window or just one brick. It's when you keep removing bricks you get into trouble. I did not work on my mental health for years to see it fall down for a single fucking brick. No way. Get fucked brain.

Woosh. There we go. Getting stronger all the time.

I think that's it for this letter. It's almost midnight. I'll feel better tomorrow (today?) if I at least try and sleep.

Sending lots of love, energy, care and whatever else you want or need (and lots of hugs, if you want them). Please look after yourself and tell your demons to get fucked, if not from you then from me.



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